Phillies Are in a Tricky Spot With Justin Bour

It feels safe to say that two of the four veteran bats the Phillies acquired in July and August - Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Bautista - will not be back next season.

Wilson Ramos is definitely worth bringing back, as long as the price makes sense and the Phils feel somewhat confident about his health. Ramos will have more than a few suitors because he's not just the best catcher on the free-agent market (assuming the Dodgers re-sign Yasmani Grandal), he's one of the best free-agent hitters at any position.

What about Justin Bour?

The Phillies are in an interesting situation with the 30-year-old first baseman. He's arbitration eligible this offseason for the second time after making $3.4 million last season. The expectation is he will be paid something in the vicinity of $5 million next season.

Would the Phillies pay $5 million to a first baseman off the bench?

Bour provided real value as a pinch-hitter in 2018, going 8 for 25 (.320) with a double, three homers and 11 RBI. He hit just .227 overall this past season, but from 2015 through 2017, his OPS was nearly 30 percent better than the league average. Bour hit .272/.344/.498 over that three-year span with an average of 21 homers in 109 games.

The 2019 Phillies would be a better team with Bour on the bench than without. He could play the Greg Dobbs role. 

The big difference, though, is that Dobbs never made more than $1.35 million here. And Dobbs could play both infield corners and both outfield corners. Bour cannot. He is a more one-dimensional player who can play one position. That is not a knock on him, just the reality. The dimension he brings is worthwhile because every team needs left-handed power off the bench.

The Phillies have three choices with Bour this offseason:

• Keep him for about $5 million

• Try to trade him

• Non-tender him

If the Phils non-tender him, Bour will be picked up quickly by another club. And while Bour does have value for the aforementioned reasons, there does not figure to be an expansive trade market for his services because other teams will be hesitant to pay that $5 million (unless they plan to start him at 1B). 

Plus, other teams know the situation the Phillies are in. They know they could just wait it out and try to sign Bour after the Phils non-tender him.

Acquiring Bour on Aug. 10 for minor-league lefty McKenzie Mills was a solid trade by the Phillies that turned out not to matter. He could make more of a difference for them over a full season in 2019, but it would require the Phils to pay more than usual for a bench bat. They have the money to do it, but based on the projected salary, Bour would probably be among the first to go if the Phillies spend a lot of money elsewhere.

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